If you think massive touchscreens are distracting, you might hate the future of car interiors. That's the way the world is headed, and Ford wants to get on board with the likes of Tesla. While Ford's SYNC3 infotainment system is one of our favorites thanks to its crisp graphics, responsiveness, and easy menus, their screen size has been lagging in the industry. The Detroit blue oval brand wants to change things up so they're not even later to the party than they already are.
Ford's premium vehicles like the huge Expedition SUV in $80K+ Platinum trim get relatively dinky 8" touchscreens, which is pretty freakin' small compared to available offerings by Lexus (12.3"), Volvo (12.3"), Ram Trucks (12.0") and Tesla (15.0"). Even the new Hyundai Palisade can be outfitted with a 10.4" screen. Right now, Ford's biggest touchscreen is on the brand new 2020 Ford Explorer at a vertically-mounted 10 inches. Thankfully, Ford just announced they will outfit some of their vehicles with bigger 12- and 15-inch screens next year.
Though people love the idea of big touchscreens, the trend toward removing physical knobs for climate, audio, etc. can be disturbing since on-screen controls can't be operated without looking at them (unless voice control is simultaneously present and operates well). It's not surprising cars will head in this direction since smartphones have eliminated almost all buttons in favor of on-screen controls with zero tactility (but some haptic feedback, which helps).
To coincide with the new, bigger screens will be Ford's new SYNC4 infotainment platform that promises improved graphics, cloud-based navigation (no more SD cards), live traffic data, and multiple views within the same screen that should help reduce distraction that single app screens struggle with. Ford believes it's this new setup that should help drivers make the transition to more screen-controlled functions. Volvo, for instance, has a stunning system with their big 12.3" Sensus platform, but it can't display multiple apps in the same screen, so there's quite a bit of hunting from audio to climate to navigation, etc.
Ford will also start to use OTA (Over The Air) software updates like Telsa (and the new electric Volvo XC40 Recharge). These updates will allow Ford to make alterations to the infotainment system, thereby simplifying and improving the ownership experience since they won't have to go to dealerships for this stuff anymore. This ensures Ford owners will get the latest and greatest software and functionality, much like iOS and Android smartphone updates.
While there's no word on which models will get the bigger screens, we're guessing they will make it to more expensive models like the Expedition and the F-150 in high trim levels. It's a good move by Ford, and it can't come soon enough. No one wants to spend close to a $100K for a premium 8-passenger SUV and get the same size screen that comes in a Kia Optima.